Strange Facts About Tonight's Harvest Moon
In the days before electricity, farmers relied heavily on the light of the full moon to harvest their crops.
On June 22 and 23, the Earth's only natural satellite put on a dazzling show. Although the 'supermoon' phenomenon isn't exactly an astronomical term, and it's not an event of any great scientific consequence, it captivated the world. The cosmic coincidence of the moon being at its full phase as it made its closest approach (perigee) in its elliptical orbit, caused the 2013 supermoon to be 14 percent larger in the sky (when compared to its furthest point in orbit, or apogee) and 30 percent brighter, according to NASA. It rapidly became a beautiful astronomical spectacle.
Several of our @Discovery_Space Twitter friends who were lucky to have clear skies shared their views of this lovely celestial opportunity -- a selection of which we've showcased here.
Sean Parker, Twitter: @seanparkerphoto
"Tonight's Supermoon was considered a wanning supermoon, but still a supermoon nonetheless! Here is a 3-photo HDR image of the supermoon rising over downtown Tucson, Arizona."
"Super Moon from north Tampa, FL at 6:50 AM Monday. Competition with sunrise."
Adam Ait, Twitter: @braindrink
"Supermoon through an 80mm Meade, taken with an iPhone."
Ian Kluft, Twitter: @ikluft
"I got pic of #supermoon rise Sat from Mt Lassen in Lassen Volcanic Nat'l Park."
Summer is drawing to a close in the Northern Hemisphere, and a symbol of fall hangs in the sky tonight (Sept. 18) to help drive that fact home -- the Harvest Moon.
The Harvest Moon is the full moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox, which marks the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, the equinox falls on Sunday (Sept. 22), and the moon reaches its full phase in North America overnight from Wednesday to Thursday (Sept. 18-19).
This full moon is called the Harvest Moon because many fruits and vegetables tend to ripen in the late summer and early fall in the Northern Hemisphere. In the days before electricity, farmers relied heavily on this moon's light, working late into the evening to harvest their crops.
As it rises for several nights in a row at or near sunset, the moon will appear larger to observers near the horizon than it does high in the sky -- a much-discussed phenomenon that is sometimes called "the moon illusion."
Take a tour of autumn's stunning colors.
Our minds and eyes, used to seeing distant clouds on the horizon and closer ones a few miles overhead, believe that objects on the horizon are much farther away than objects higher in the sky. Since the moon is actually not farther away on the horizon, it appears larger.
This trick of the mind is true for the moon all year round, but it's particularly pronounced with the Harvest Moon because this full moon's path around Earth creates a particularly narrow angle with the horizon. As a result, the moon rises only 30 minutes later every day around the fall equinox, far below the average of 50 minutes.
Sometimes the moon turns orange, just like a fall pumpkin, because of clouds and dust in the atmosphere close to the horizon. So the Harvest Moon may hang low and large on the horizon tonight, like a colorful lantern.
Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of the Harvest Moon full moon or any other night sky target and you'd like to share it for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Space.com. More from Space.com:
10 Surprising Moon Facts
Season to Season: Earth's Equinoxes & Solstices (Infographic)
Best Stargazing Events of September 2013 (Sky Map Gallery)
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